Subscribers to Vangardist, a German men’s lifestyle magazine, are coming into contact with one of the most powerful covers of any magazine this week. The latest issue is arriving sealed in a plastic pouch with a special introduction that reads: “If you’re holding the ‘infected’ print edition in your hands right now, you’ll get into contact with HIV like never before….It will make you reflect on HIV and you will think differently afterward. Because now the issue is in your hands.”
The magazine’s bold move poses absolutely no health risk to readers, but the intent is to get readers to stop and confront their stigma about the disease. “This isn’t just a gay disease or just sits in Africa,” said Jason Romeyko, creative director of Saatchi and Saatchi, who helped develop the idea with the magazine.
3,000 issues were printed with the blood of three HIV-positive volunteers who represented a diverse, yet realistic, range of HIV-infected people. The volunteers consisted of a single mother who got the disease from her then-husband who kept his diagnosis a secret, a 26-year-old gay man, and a heterosexual man who chose to not be publicly revealed.
Despite the fact that the virus would have died in the blood shortly after being taken from the HIV-positive volunteers, Vangardist also had the blood pasteurized before being mixed with the ink to ensure that there was absolutely no risk of readers being infected.
“We believe that as a lifestyle magazine it is our responsibility to address the issues shaping society today,” the magazine’s publisher and CEO Julian Wiehl said in a press release. “With 80% more confirmed cases of HIV being recorded in 2013 than 10 years previously, and an estimated 50% of HIV cases being detected late due to lack of testing caused by social stigma associated with the virus, this felt like a very relevant issue for us to focus on not just editorially but also from a broader communications standpoint.”